Thursday, December 23, 2010

Measuring Success

It all seems so pointless to get caught up in feeling good about a day if everything is accomplished by nighttime.  All the emails are read and responded to, pastoral calls made, people encountered, liturgies celebrated, paperwork taken care of, thank-you notes written.  It never ends:  what's the point of trying to measure success by whether or not we've finished all these things--because they never end?  Surely there is another measure.  How about considering successful a day in which we could be truly present to the people who walk into it?

William Holman Hunt, "The Light of the World,"  reproduction

For each person carries Christ within; being present to each person means being present to God.  Surely the shape of our lives and our ministries will look different if we can live in this way, not ticking off the to-do list items, but instead taking time, being with, treating each person as Christ.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Stone, A Leaf, an Unfound Door

Thomas Wolfe, 20th Century novelist, rhapsodic on our constant search for grounding, presence, and hope . . . seek the light and go beyond.  Wolfe writes in the prelude to his novel Look Homeward, Angel:

A stone, a leaf, an unfound door; 
Of a stone, a leaf, a door.
And of all the forgotten faces.
Naked and alone we came into exile.
In her dark womb 
We did not know our mother's face; 
From the prison of her flesh we have come 
Into the unspeakable and incommunicable prison 
Of this earth.
Which of us has known his brother? 
Which of us has looked into his father's heart?
Which of us has not remained forever prison-pent? 
Which of us is not forever a stranger and alone? 
O waste of loss in the hot mazes, lost, 
Among the bright stars 
On this most weary unbright cinder, lost! 
Remembering speechlessly 
We seek the great forgotten language, 
The lost lane-end into heaven, 
A stone, a leaf, an unfound door.

Where?  When?

O lost, and by the wind grieved,

Ghost, come back again.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Beehives and Inspiration

Here is a poem I love--written by Antonio Machado, the Spanish poet, who died in 1939.  The translator is American poet Robert Bly.  Pay attention to those bees!

Sweet honey from my old failures

Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that a spring was breaking
out in my heart.
I said: Along which secret aqueduct,
Oh water, are you coming to me,
water of a new life
that I have never drunk?

Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that I had a beehive
here inside my heart.
And the golden bees
were making white combs
and sweet honey
from my old failures.

Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that a fiery sun was giving
light inside my heart.
It was fiery because I felt
warmth as from a hearth,
and sun because it gave light
and brought tears to my eyes.

Last night as I slept,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that it was God I had
here inside my heart.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Bucharest Dogs Are Smart!

On our trip to Romania in October we saw lots of feral dogs--lying around in parks, walking all over Bucharest and the countryside, singly and in packs.  During the day they are pretty quiet but at night they hang out in packs and make quite a ruckus now and then.  Thousands of people get bitten each year--you gotta keep your distance.  Bucharest officials are trying to keep down the dog population by catching and neutering dogs--then marking them with a tag in their ears to let them know they've had "the treatment."  Here is one such pooch, with a tag in his/her ear:

I thought these dogs were really smart:  often at crowded crosswalks we saw them lining up with the humans waiting to cross at the lights.  Then when the "green man" lit up and the humans crossed, the dogs did too . . . quite amazing, learned behavior.

But then my daughter Chloe said that the dogs of Romania don't even begin to compare to the ones in Moscow:  there they have learned how to sneak up on people to make them drop their food . ..  and they've learned how to commute into the city during the day, and out again at night.

One thing is troublesome though--where do these dogs go in the bitter cold of winter?  Perhaps they congregate in the subway tunnels that aren't quite so cold as the streets above . . . or ride the trains all day??

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Hope for Our Journey

Why the name "hope for our journey" for this blog?   It comes from one of the Eucharistic prayers in Enriching Our Worship.  I love this passage from the prayer, just before the consecration:  "Wondrous are you, Holy One of blessing.  All you create is a sign of hope for our journey."  

Not the lake in the story, but a lovely one just the same . . .  in southern Quebec, Lake Massawippi
I think of the time I celebrated Eucharist at a church picnic in another place.  The parish was emerging from a stressful incident and we were celebrating on the shoreline of a small lake.  Just when I got to that part:  "Wondrous are you, Holy One of blessing.  All you create is a sign of hope for our journey," a flock of geese in the background took off from the lake--right on cue.  I chose to take that as a wonderful piece of synchronicity, reminding me and others that things are as God intends them to be and that all things will be well.

Now in Redding our little Eucharistic Community of Wednesday Evenings uses this prayer often.  Even when things are stressful, even when things may be hard, still--"all you create is a sign of hope for our journey."  All you create.  Even the stressors.  Even the challenges and the things that make our pulses race.  All you create.  Signs of hope.  And I choose to remember these things and fight to hold onto them especially when circumstances point in other directions.  

Thanks be to God.